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Yakuza was "flat out rejected" by Sega in its first proposal, says series creator

Now one of its top sellers.

A very cheerful Ichiban Kasuga in his Hawaiian shirt in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth
Image credit: Sega

Sega initially "flat out rejected" the first proposal for Yakuza, as it wouldn't attract the masses.

That's according to series creator Toshihiro Nagoshi on the latest News Picks video, in which he discusses the origins of the series (thanks Automaton).

The Like A Dragon series (Yakuza in the West) debuted in 2015, but initially wasn't seen as a profitable idea.

Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth opening movieWatch on YouTube

At this time in the industry, Japanese games no longer dominated sales. "This led to a mindset of making games that would appeal to the masses, games that could sell anywhere and to anyone. Many producers, including myself, thought this way," said Nagoshi.

"But this mindset wasn't really leading to a solution, and I saw many game proposals gradually become watered down as producers bent over to change things the way management instructed them to."

However, when Nagoshi pitched the concept of Like a Dragon to Sega, "it was flat out rejected," he said. "After all, it was completely contrary to what I mentioned earlier about attracting the masses. Children wouldn't be able to play it, and it wasn't catered to women nor overseas audiences. In this sense, there was no way for it to be approved without resistance."

Nagoshi believed the game's strong identity would make it a commercial success, though admitted the route to approval was "quite forceful".

He also did not want the game to affirm violence, despite its Yakuza subject. "I wanted it to be a game that makes you want to do your best to live another day," he said. "I remember reminding people of this frequently."

It's perhaps surprising Sega was initially reluctant to green light the game, considering it's now one of its top franchises alongside Sonic and the Persona series. Nagoshi was clearly right that its strong Japanese identity would result in global appeal.

The latest in the series, Infinite Wealth, sold 1m units in its first week and was the series' biggest Steam launch ever.

As a whole, the series has sold 21.3m units (as per November 2023).

"Violent stakes once again meet zany shenanigans in Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth, the series' much-improved second RPG," reads our Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth Eurogamer review.

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